Published November 2017.
Amana Academy Wins Award for STEM Outreach
Amana Academy won the STEM Certified School Outreach category at the 2017 STEM Education Awards sponsored by the Technology Association of Georgia and TAG Education Collaborative.
Amana Academy Charter School in Alpharetta recently won the Technology Association of Georgia’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Education Award for Certified STEM School Outreach. This category recognizes the crucial role that STEM Certified schools play in mentoring other innovative schools that are working towards school certification. Nominees for this award are evaluated based on their outreach efforts supporting other schools and programs. Amana is the first K-8 school in the state of Georgia to achieve STEM Certification, a designation awarded by the state’s Department of Education. There are currently fewer than 60 schools across the state that are STEM Certified, with another 1000 in the application process.
Last year, Amana introduced STEM\\venture Days, a series of events designed to showcase their unique Expeditionary STEM program to both educators and industry innovators. According to a recent study, 56% of young people surveyed said knowing how STEM skills relate to the real world─beyond math and science─would make STEM classes more interesting. In the face of an ongoing STEM talent shortage, many schools are seeking STEM Certification through the Georgia Department of Education in order to give students those real-world STEM experiences, but often need help with navigating the rigorous certification process.
As teachers from Rome City Schools circled up with other participants to debrief the most recent STEM\\venture Day at Amana, their big ‘noticing’ was the large number of purposeful partnerships with businesses, non-profits and expert visitors that are working directly with students on semester-long Learning Expeditions, where students attempt to find solutions to real-world problems by applying the content standards they learn in the classroom. Third grade students were working with the Amphibian Foundation to understand the health of salamanders and toads in adjacent Wills Park while 5th grade students learned how to code on KANO computers donated by the City of Alpharetta; and down the hall, volunteer Georgia Tech students were delivering a lesson to 7th grade students. The immersive STEM\\venture Day experience for educators and innovators that Amana Academy hosts monthly is one of the reasons the school won the STEM Certified School Outreach Award.
Rather than viewing STEM education in a vacuum, Amana teachers integrate it in creative ways using Expeditionary Learning core practices, and award winning inquiry-based tools and curricula. Lessons are brought to life through authentic fieldwork and expert visitors who provide students with real-world applications for the content standards they are exposed to in the classroom. Over 50 teachers from 9 different school systems, along with representatives from a variety of innovative fields attended a STEM\\venture Day at Amana last year.
In addition to inviting educators and innovators into the school to gain insight into how STEM can be applied in meaningful ways, the school’s outreach includes activities within the local technology ecosystem. Executive Director, Mr. Ehab Jaleel, participates in the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce’s Talent Coalition IT Partnerships Work Group, to help develop a talent pipeline for many of the Technology companies that are locating in and around Alpharetta, “the Technology City of the South.” Reflecting on this recognition, Jaleel stated, “Having a vantage point on the Chambers IT work group has highlighted the need to inspire students at a young age to develop STEM thinking skills for these type of careers; and we are eager to play a role in sharing our practices with other schools.”
This is the second year that the school was nominated for the outreach award. In the past, the school has also been nominated in the middle school and STEM Day categories. The STEM Education Awards Ceremony wa held on November 3rd at the Loudermilk Center in downtown Atlanta. This is the premier STEM recognition event in the state, and it has recognized our state’s top STEM educators, schools, companies, and programs for six consecutive years.